Review of “The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree”

The Jaguar and the Cacao Treejagurar and cacoa
By Birgitte Rasine
Published by LUCITA Publishing
332 pages

I was asked to review this upcoming book, which will be published in March 2016. This was a thrilling and marvelous book in almost every way. It’s full of adventure, mythology, magic and a wondrous plot. The book is about two kids, Max and Itzel, and their adventures in the jungles of Guatemala. It is also about Mayan life and mythology where the legends actually come to life!

Max is eleven year old boy who gets to travel the world. His father is a bee researcher whose job takes him to exotic places and his mother is a science writer who helps Max’s father. The book begins when Max’s family goes to Guatemala to research a unique type of bee. There, they stay with a small Mayan village, near the jungle, where Max meets a young Mayan girl names Itzel. Itzel teaches Max about the ancient Mayan culture and traditions and together, they have numerous adventures in the jungle. For example, they encounter serpents and jaguars, and re-home honeybees.

The biggest adventure they have is when, one night, Itzel takes Max to a sacred cacao tree where, during the full moon, the Mayan elders perform a ritual with the cacao pods. But when Max and Itzel realize it’s not the night of the full moon, they have to hurry back to the village before they are discovered missing and near the sacred tree, where they are not allowed. As they are leaving, they discover several of the sacred cacao pods had fallen off the tree. When they open the pods, they accidentally release the sacred pollen inside and find themselves in deep trouble with one of the Mayan mythological deities.

This book taught me a lot about the Mayan ways. For example, Itzel explains that naguals are “spirit guides.” In the book, Max actually meets his nagual, a hummingbird called Luna, who becomes an important character in the story. But I especially loved learning that chocolate is a part of Mayan history, including a special hot chocolate recipe that was passed down from an ancient Mayan lord.

One of the things I really liked about this book is that the author provided many small adventures and then one big one at the end. Most other books I’ve read only have one main adventure. I also liked the way the little adventures built up to the key adventure. This made the book more interesting and exciting.

Also, there are parts in the book where the characters speak Spanish, and the author provides the translation underneath. I think the way Spanish is used in the book makes the characters more realistic, since that is the language that is spoken in Guatemala. I also think it’s fun to learn a little Spanish.

This is a great adventure book for kids ages 9-13.


4 thoughts on “Review of “The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree”

  1. This book sounds really interesting. Do you know if this book was publish already in the Spanish language? I would like to include it in the inventory of my on-line children’s books store, Based on your review, the story reminds me of another book I have read long time ago, at the age of 12, in Poland. The book was written by the Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz (Nobel prize winning novelist), and titled: “In Desert and Wilderness”. It’s a story of two young friends, Staś Tarkowski (14 years old) and Nel Rawlison (8 years old), kidnapped by rebels from Sudan who were fighting the British (at the time of the construction of the Suez Canal in Egypt). It’s an excellent book describing the adventures of a young boy and girl in the desert. It has a taste of reality to it just like the book you reviewed here.
    Phoebe’ka, congratulation for this wonderful review!

    1. Dear Yona, thanks so much for your kind comment. I’m struck by your reference to Poland… because I was born in the Czech Republic. So I wonder if we Central European writers share an underlying worldview… 🙂

      I would be delighted to make the book available for your store. You can contact me through my web site,

      Warm regards, Birgitte

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